FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 147575             October 22, 2004

TERESITA B. MENDOZA, petitioner,
vs.
BETH DAVID, respondent.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a petition for review1 of the Decision2 dated 10 October 2000 and the Resolution dated 20 March 2001 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 58087. The Court of Appeals dismissed Teresita B. Mendozaís ("Mendoza") petition for review for being insufficient in form and substance and denied her motion to reconsider the Decision.

The Facts

This case3 arose from an action for collection of money with damages that Mendoza filed against Beth David ("David") before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City ("MTC"), Branch 35.

In her complaint, Mendoza alleged that on 17 February 1997, she ordered three sets of furniture from David worth ₱185,650 and paid an initial deposit of ₱40,650. Mendoza and David agreed on the specifications of the dining set, sofa set and tea set including the material and quality. On 18 February 1997, Mendoza cancelled some of the furniture she ordered and David agreed to the cancellation. On 12 April 1997, Mendoza paid an additional deposit of ₱40,000.

When David delivered the dining set to Mendoza on 17 April 1997, Mendoza rejected the set because of inferior material and poor quality. Mendoza likewise rejected the sala set and the tea set for the same reason. When Mendoza requested a refund of her total deposit of ₱80,650, David refused. Mendoza then sent David a letter dated 27 May 1997 demanding the refund of her deposit but David ignored the demand letter.4 The parties failed to arrive at an amicable settlement. Thus, Mendoza filed a complaint for collection of money with damages.5

In her Answer, David admitted that she and Mendoza agreed on the material and quality of the furniture Mendoza ordered since that was the normal practice for "made to order" furniture. David stated that on 17 April 1997, she delivered some of the furniture which was received by Mendozaís father. However, Mendoza could not pay the balance of the price and requested payment on installment which David rejected. As a result of Mendozaís non-payment, David reclaimed the furniture already delivered and informed Mendoza she could get the furniture upon payment of the balance of ₱105,000. In the meantime, David stored the furniture in her warehouse. When David received Mendozaís demand letter, she refused to comply with Mendozaís request for a refund of the deposit since all the three sets of furniture Mendoza ordered were already finished and delivered on the agreed date. David only retrieved the furniture due to non-payment of the balance.6

On 2 August 1999, the MTC dismissed Mendozaís complaint for lack of merit. The MTC held that David is not liable to return the deposit Mendoza paid. The MTC found there was already a perfected contract of sale which imposes reciprocal obligations on the parties. Mendoza is obligated to pay the balance of the purchase price while David is obligated to deliver the three sets of furniture to Mendoza upon payment of the purchase price.

The MTC found no proof of breach of contract on Davidís part. Mendoza failed to present any evidence that the furniture David delivered to her on 17 April 1997 was not in accordance with the agreed specifications. Besides, the order receipt for the sofa set, tea set and dining set contained no specifications on the required material or the quality of workmanship.

Mendoza appealed to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City ("RTC"), Branch 105, which modified the decision of the MTC. The dispositive portion of the RTCís decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the decision appealed from is affirmed with MODIFICATION in that the plaintiff-appellant is ordered to pay to the defendant within sixty (60) days from receipt of this decision the amount of ₱55,850.00, with legal interest from 17 April 1997 until fully paid; otherwise, the deposit of ₱80,650.00 will be deemed forfeited and the defendant-appellee shall, thereafter, be authorized to dispose of the subject furniture. Upon timely payment of said obligation by the plaintiff-appellant to the defendant-appellee, the latter is ordered to deliver the subject furniture to the former.7

The RTC agreed with the MTC that there was a perfected contract of sale. The RTC found that Mendoza failed to present any proof to show that the furniture delivered was not in accordance with the agreed specifications. Applying the doctrine of caveat emptor, the RTC held that Mendoza should have specified in writing the details of her order. However, the RTC held that the remaining balance for the furniture ordered was only ₱55,850 since the total purchase price was reduced to ₱136,5008 because of the cancelled orders.

Mendoza filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals. On 10 October 2000, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for being insufficient in form and substance. The Court of Appeals held that failure to append the complaint, answer, position papers, memoranda and other evidence is sufficient ground to dismiss the petition, citing Sections 2 and 3, Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Nevertheless, despite the absence of pleadings and other pertinent documents, the Court of Appeals ruled that there is no basis for Mendozaís claim that the furniture sets did not meet the agreed specifications. Relying merely on the decisions of the MTC and the RTC, the Court of Appeals held that factual findings of the lower courts are entitled to great weight and should not be disturbed except for cogent reasons.9

On 6 November 2000, Mendoza filed a motion for reconsideration which the Court of Appeals denied. Hence, the instant petition.

The Issues

Mendoza raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the petition for review on the ground that Mendoza failed to attach the required documents to the petition despite subsequent compliance by Mendoza in her motion for reconsideration.

2. Whether the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the petition despite the fact that the transaction between the parties was one of sale by description or sample.

The Ruling of the Court

We find the petition partly meritorious. Mendoza substantially complied with the formal requirements when she filed her motion for reconsideration with the Court of Appeals. However, to avoid further delay, the Court will resolve the petition on the merits instead of remanding the case to the Court of Appeals.

Compliance with the Formal Requirements

The Court of Appeals dismissed the case based on Sections 2 and 3, Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which read:

SEC. 2. Form and contents. Ė The petition shall be filed in seven (7) legible copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall (a) state the full names of the parties to the case, without impleading the lower courts or judges thereof either as petitioners or respondents; (b) indicate the specific material dates showing that it was filed on time; (c) set forth concisely a statement of the matters involved, the issues raised, the specification of errors of fact or law, or both, allegedly committed by the Regional Trial Court, and the reasons or arguments relied upon for the allowance of the appeal; (d) be accompanied by clearly legible duplicate originals or true copies of the judgments or final orders of both lower courts, certified correct by the clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court, the requisite number of plain copies thereof and of the pleadings and other material portions of the record as would support the allegations of the petition.

x x x

SEC. 3. Effect of failure to comply with requirements. Ė The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements regarding the payment of the docket and other lawful fees, the deposit for costs, proof of service of the petition, and the contents of and the documents which should accompany the petition shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof. (Emphasis supplied)

However, Section 6, Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure also provides that rules shall be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding. Indeed, rules of procedure should be used to promote, not frustrate justice.10 This Court has ruled against the dismissal of appeals based solely on technicalities in several cases, especially when the appellant had substantially complied with the formal requirements.11

In Donato v. Court of Appeals,12 the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition on two grounds: (a) the certificate of non-forum shopping was signed by petitionerís counsel and not by petitioner himself;13 and (b) only a certified copy of the questioned decision was annexed to the petition leaving out copies of the pleadings and other material portions of the record to support the allegations of the petition. This Court reversed the Court of Appealsí dismissal of the case since in petitionerís motion for reconsideration, he submitted a certificate of non-forum shopping signed by him and attached copies of the pleadings and material portions of the records. This Court considered the subsequent filing of the certification of non-forum shopping duly signed by petitioner himself as substantial compliance which justifies relaxation of the rule. As regards the failure to attach the necessary pleadings and material portions of the records, this Court held:

In like manner, the failure of the petitioner to comply with Section 3, paragraph b, Rule 6 of the RIRCA, that is, to append to his petition copies of the pleadings and other material portions of the records as would support the petition, does not justify the outright dismissal of the petition. It must be emphasized that the RIRCA gives the appellate court a certain leeway to require parties to submit additional documents as may be necessary in the interest of substantial justice. Under Section 3, paragraph d of Rule 3 of the RIRCA, the CA may require the parties to complete the annexes as the court deems necessary, and if the petition is given due course, the CA may require the elevation of a complete record of the case as provided for under Section 3(d)(5) of Rule 6 of the RIRCA. At any rate, petitioner attached copies of the pleadings and other material portions of the records below with his motion for reconsideration. In Jaro vs. Court of Appeals, the Court reiterated the doctrine laid down in Cusi-Hernandez vs. Diaz and Piglas-Kamao vs. National Labor Relations Commission that subsequent submission of the missing documents with the motion for reconsideration amounts to substantial compliance which calls for the relaxation of the rules of procedure. xxx (Emphasis supplied)

Similarly, in this case, although Mendoza failed to append the pleadings and pertinent documents in her petition to the Court of Appeals, Mendoza rectified her error by filing a motion for reconsideration and appending the pleadings and documents required by the Court of Appeals. Mendoza appended copies of the following pleadings and documents in her motion for reconsideration:

1. Complaint filed in the MTC (Annex A)

2. Davidís Answer (Annex B)

3. Pre-Trial Order of the MTC (Annex C)

4. Mendozaís Memorandum filed in the MTC (Annex D)

5. Davidís Memorandum filed in the MTC (Annex E)

6. Mendozaís Memorandum filed in the RTC (Annex F)

7. Davidís Comment to the Motion for Reconsideration of Mendoza (Annex G)

The Complaint that Mendoza appended also contained the following annexes: (a) the sales invoice dated 17 February 1997 which indicated the total deposit for the furniture ordered; (b) the letter of Mendoza to David dated 27 May 1997 demanding the return of the ₱80,650 deposit; and (c) the certification to file action from the Office of the Barangay Captain of Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City.

Instead of denying the Motion for Reconsideration, the Court of Appeals should have ruled on the merits of the case considering that Mendoza already submitted the pleadings and documents required by the Court of Appeals. The rules of procedure are designed to ensure a fair, orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.14 As much as possible, appeals should not be dismissed on a mere technicality in order to afford the litigants the maximum opportunity for the adjudication of their cases on the merits.15

Reliance on the Factual Findings of the Lower Courts

Likewise, the Court of Appeals should have refrained from hastily dismissing the petition through the expediency of applying the doctrine that factual findings of the lower courts are entitled to great weight. The doctrine is applicable where there is substantial evidence to support the findings of fact by the lower court as borne by the records of the case.16 In this case, the Court of Appeals admitted that without the pertinent documents and pleadings, it is deprived of a full opportunity to know all the facts and issues involved in the case.17 The doctrine therefore is not applicable considering the absence of the records of the case to determine whether substantial evidence supports the factual findings of the lower court. Instead of relying on the doctrine, the Court of Appeals could have required Mendoza to submit additional documents in accordance with Section 3 (d), Rule 3 of the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals18 so that it would have a basis for its ruling. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals could order the Clerk of the RTC to elevate the original records of the case for a complete adjudication of the case.19

Made to Order or Sale by Description or Sample?

David alleges that the three sets of furniture were "made to order" in accordance with the usual practice of furniture stores. On the other hand, Mendoza insists that the transaction was a sale by sample or description which can be rescinded as provided under Article 148120 of the Civil Code.

There is a sale by sample when a small quantity is exhibited by the seller as a fair specimen of the bulk, which is not present and there is no opportunity to inspect or examine the same.21 To constitute a sale by sample, it must appear that the parties treated the sample as the standard of quality and that they contracted with reference to the sample with the understanding that the product to be delivered would correspond with the sample.22 In a contract of sale by sample, there is an implied warranty that the goods shall be free from any defect which is not apparent on reasonable examination of the sample and which would render the goods unmerchantable.23

There is a sale of goods by description where "a seller sells things as being of a particular kind, the buyer not knowing whether the sellerís representations are true or false, but relying on them as true; or as otherwise stated, where the buyer has not seen the article sold and relies on the description given to him by the seller, or has seen the goods, but the want of identity is not apparent on inspection."24 A sellerís description of the goods which is made part of the basis of the transaction creates a warranty that the goods will conform to that description.25 Where the goods are bought by description from a seller who deals in the goods of that description, there is an implied warranty that the goods are of merchantable quality.26

Whether a transaction is a sale by sample, a sale by description or "made to order" is a question of fact for the trial court to decide from the evidence presented. In this case, the MTC found that there was a consummated "made to order" agreement between Mendoza and David.

The Court agrees with the MTC that the transaction in this case was a "made to order" agreement. There is nothing in the records which would show that the intent of the parties was for a sale by sample or description. Whether a sale is by sample or description depends upon the facts disclosing the intention of the parties. Other than Mendozaís bare allegations that the transaction was a sale by sample or description, Mendoza failed to produce evidence to substantiate her claim.

The sale of furniture in this case is not a sale by sample. The term sale by sample does not include an agreement to manufacture goods to correspond with the pattern.27 In this case, the three sets of furniture were manufactured according to the specifications provided by the buyer. Mendoza did not order the exact replica of the furniture displayed in Davidís shop but made her own specifications on the measurement, material and quality of the furniture she ordered.

Neither is the transaction a sale by description. Mendoza did not rely on any description made by David when she ordered the furniture. Mendoza inspected the furniture displayed in Davidís furniture shop and made her own specifications on the three sets of furniture she ordered.

Breach of Contract Not Proven

It is undisputed that there was a perfected contract of sale of furniture between Mendoza and David. The three sets of furniture were delivered or ready for delivery within the agreed period. The issue for resolution is whether there was breach of contract on Davidís part. The Court finds none.

Part of the exhibits David submitted to the MTC were pictures of the sets of furniture Mendoza ordered. The MTC found the furniture to be strictly in accordance with the tenor of the contract between Mendoza and David. The MTC and the RTC, noting the lack of written specifications on the material and quality of the furniture ordered, held that Mendoza failed to present any proof to show that the furniture was not in accordance with the agreed specifications. The records show that the parties agreed that the furniture should be made of narra. Mendoza admitted that the furniture delivered was made of narra but was of inferior quality. She also complained of deep nail marks and rough surface at the back of the table and chairs. However, Mendoza failed to prove these allegations.

In civil cases, the burden of proof28 rests on the party who asserts the affirmative of an issue based on the pleadings or the nature of the case.29 In this case, the burden lies on Mendoza who must prove her allegation that there was breach of contract. After reviewing the records of the case, the Court finds that Mendoza failed to substantiate her claim of breach of contract. Mendoza failed to present any evidence to overcome the presumption that the transaction was fair and regular.30

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 10 October 2000 and the Resolution dated 20 March 2001 are MODIFIED. Petitioner Teresita B. Mendoza is ordered to pay respondent Beth David the amount of ₱55,850 with interest at 6% per annum from 17 April 1997 until finality of this Decision and 12% per annum thereafter until full payment. Beth David is ordered to deliver to Teresita B. Mendoza the three sets of furniture Mendoza ordered upon her payment of the balance of the purchase price with interest.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

2 Penned by Associate Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., with Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. and Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. concurring.

3 Civil Case No. 18224.

4 Mendoza stated in her letter that:

On April 17, you delivered the dining set at my residence which was received by my father who noticed the inferior quality of the items. On the night of the same day when I saw the dining set, I was really disappointed to find the furniture far below my expectations considering the comparatively high price that I had to pay.

Particularly, the overriding deficiencies concerned the badly flawed wood used. There were large and deep nail marks/holes, the wood was stripped, grossly uneven and appeared to have breaks giving the impression that the wood materials were rejects or of poor quality. Moreover, the under and back sides of the table and chairs were generally very rough indicating that the job was done in a haphazard manner.

5 Rollo, pp. 38-40.

6 Ibid., pp. 83-85.

7 Ibid., p. 51.

8 The remaining sets of furniture ordered were:

a. Sofa Set -₱54,000
b. Tea Set -₱18,500
c. Dining Set -₱64,000
₱136,500

9 Rollo, pp. 28-31.

10 Vidal v. Escueta, G.R. No. 156228, 10 December 2003, 417 SCRA 617; Quirao v. Quirao, G.R. No. 148120, 24 October 2003, 414 SCRA 430; Chua v. Absolute Management Corporation, G.R. No. 144881, 16 October 2003, 413 SCRA 547.

11 See Reyes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 154448, 15 August 2003, 409 SCRA 267; Posadas-Moya and Associates Construction Co., Inc. v. Greenfield Development Corporation, G.R. No. 141115, 10 June 2003, 403 SCRA 530; Jaro v. Court of Appeals, 427 Phil. 532 (2002); Piglas-Kamao (Sari-Sari Chapter) v. NLRC, G.R. No. 138556, 9 May 2001, 357 SCRA 640; Uy v. Bureau of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 129651, 20 October 2000, 344 SCRA 36; Cusi-Hernandez v. Sps. Diaz, 390 Phil. 1245 (2000); Cadayona v. Court of Appeals, 381 Phil. 619 (2000).

12 G.R. No. 129638, 8 December 2003, 417 SCRA 216.

13 This Court found that petitioner who was a resident of Virginia, U.S.A. could not have filed the petition within the 15-day reglementary period if he were to personally accomplish and sign the certification of non-forum shopping.

14 Bahia Shipping Services, Inc. v. Mosquera, G.R. No. 153432, 18 February 2004.

15 Pacific Life Assurance Corp. v. Sison, 359 Phil. 332 (1998).

16 Pacific Airways Corporation v. Tonda, G.R. No. 138478, 26 November 2002, 392 SCRA 625; MOF Company, Inc. v. Enriquez, 431 Phil. 862 (2002); F.F. Mañacop Construction Co., Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 122196, 15 January 1997, 266 SCRA 235; Catapusan v. CA, 332 Phil. 586 (1996).

17 Rollo, p. 30. The Court of Appeals held:

Moreover, in filing a petition for review, the petitioner has the burden to sufficiently establish that the petition is not only meritorious but has sufficiently complied with all the requirements for the filing thereof. Since the original records of the case are not with this Court, the appended pleadings and pertinent documents will serve as the only guide and basis in determining whether or not to give due course or outrightly dismiss the petition. Based upon practical considerations, the law requires all documents in support of the petition must be attached. As otherwise, without them, this Court is left with no other alternative but to deny the petition.

With the above note, the petition at bar without attaching the complaint, answer, evidences and appeal memoranda or position papers submitted a quo deprives this court of a full opportunity to know all the facts and issues involved in the case. Left to decide the case on the basis merely of the two (2) decisions of the lower court, without more, We can only turn to and rely on the well-settled doctrine that factual findings of the lower court are entitled to great weight and not to be disturbed except on cogent reasons (Villanueva vs. Court of Appeals, 267 SCRA 89 [1997]); that it is the peculiar province of the trial court to determine the credibility of witnesses and related questions of facts because of its superior advantage in observing the conduct and demeanor of witnesses while testifying (Jacobo vs. Court of Appeals, 270 SCRA 270 [1997]; People vs. Lomboy, 309 SCRA 440 [1999]; People vs. Mijano, 311 SCRA 81 [1999]). It may be true that this rule of long standing is not without any exception as when the trial court overlook certain facts of substance or value which if considered may alter the result (Dizon vs. Court of Appeals, 311 SCRA 1 [1999]). Such exception does not appear in this case. This is specially so when between the two (2) conflicting versions of the parties in this suit, that of herein private respondent appears to be more natural and in accordance with ordinary human behavior and conduct compounded by the fact that herein petitioner failed to show in this petition a basis for [her] claim that the pieces of furniture did not meet the agreed specifications and workmanship. (Emphasis supplied)

18 Section 3(d), Rule 3 of the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals reads:

d. When a petition does not have the complete annexes or the required number of copies, the Chief of the Judicial Records Division shall require the petitioner to complete the annexes or file the necessary number of copies of the petition before docketing the case. Pleadings improperly filed in court shall be returned to the sender by the Chief of the Judicial Records Division.

19 Section 3(d)(5), Rule 6 of the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals; Jaro v. Court of Appeals, 427 Phil. 532 (2002).

20 Article 1481 of the Civil Code reads:

Art. 1481. In the contract of sale of goods by description or by sample, the contract may be rescinded if the bulk of the goods delivered do not correspond with the description or the sample, and if the contract be by sample as well as by description, it is not sufficient that the bulk of goods correspond with the sample if they do not also correspond with the description.

The buyer shall have a reasonable opportunity of comparing the bulk with the description or the sample.

21 67A Am. Jur. 2d Sales ß 741 (1985).

22 Rite Fabrics, Inc. v. Stafford-Higgins Co., Inc., 366 F. Supp. 1 (1973).

23 Article 1565 of the Civil Code.

24 77 C.J.S. Sales ß 319 (1952).

25 Smith v. Zimbalist, 38 P.2d 170 (1935).

26 Article 1562 (2) of the Civil Code.

27 38 Words and Phrases, "Sale by Sample" (1967), citing Gurney v. Atlantic & G.W.R. Co., 58 N.Y. 358, 364.

28 Section 1, Rule 131 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides that: "Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue necessary to establish his claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by law."

29 Alonso v. Cebu Country Club, Inc., G.R. No. 130876, 5 December 2003, 417 SCRA 115; Pastor v. Philippine National Bank, G.R. No. 141316, 20 November 2003, 416 SCRA 283; Citibank, N.A. Mastercard v. Teodoro, G.R. No. 150905, 23 September 2003, 411 SCRA 577; P.T. Cerna Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 91622, 6 April 1993, 221 SCRA 19.

30 Section 3(p), Rule 131 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides that private transactions are presumed to be fair and regular unless contradicted and overcome by evidence.


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